Should we really have celebrated Columbus Day last week? No, according to a Brandeis professor, who says that ancient Hebrews reached America 1300 years before Columbus.
These explorers allegedly set foot in the New World around 135 A.D. "There was more than one boatload," Cyrus H. Gordon said last Sunday. "Perhaps it was a two-way affair, with some colonists returning to the Old World to spread the news. We do not know how long this colony lasted."
Gordon, professor of Mediterranean Studies at Brandeis, claimed that Hebrew refugees fleeing Roman oppression crossed the Atlantic, perhaps with the aid of Phoenecian navigators. They eventually settled in Tennessee and Kentucky, he said.
Gordon based his theory on a stone uncovered in a Tennessee Indian burial mound. He claims that inscriptions on the stone are ancient Hebrew characters that say "for the land of Canaan."
Although a Smithsonian Institute team discovered the stone in 1885, no one thought it significant until Gordon studied it. A colleague sent a picture of the rock to Gordon, who said he realized that the stone had been photographed and studied upside down. He then deciphered the characters.
"That is a fraud," Cambridge Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci commented. Vellucci is noted for his defense of Christopher Columbus as the first white man to reach the New World.
"Just because they found a rock with some Jewish writing on it does not prove anything. You'd think everybody discovered America, which by the way is named after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian gentleman," he said.
"What is to stop me from planting a rock somewhere on Harvard which says that Elihu Yale founded Harvard? In 100 years people would find it and believe it," Vellucci added.